Reflections on 30 Years:
Children’s Rights in Canada
This year marks the 30th Anniversary of the Adoption of the Convention on the Rights of the Child at the United Nations and the establishment of the Canadian Coalition for the Rights of Children.
To honour this occasion, reflections on the 30th Anniversary will be shared on this page. Themes for reflection are broad, including:
- What difference has the Convention made in Canada?
- Next Steps for Children’s Rights Advocacy
- The challenges of implementation in Canada
- Emerging Issues Beyond the Convention
Honourable Landon Pearson: “Origins and Early Days of the Canadian Coalition for the Rights of Children”
The Honourable Landon Pearson was one of the founders of the Canadian Coalition for the Rights of Children. As a Senator, she became known as the Children’s Senator. Senator Landon Pearson has worked at all levels, from local communities to the United Nations, to advance children’s rights. Following her service as a Senator, she established the Landon Pearson Center for the Study of Childhood and Children’s Rights at Carleton University, where she continues to promote understanding and respect for the rights of children, especially the right for children to have a voice in decisions that affect them.
In this essay Landon Pearson recalls the excitement around the Adoption of the Convention and why and how the Coalition was formed.
Dr. Katherine Covell and Dr. Brian Howe: “Reflections on 30 Years of the CRC in Canada”
Dr. Katherine Covell and Dr. Brian Howe are two well-known champions for children’s rights in Canada. A Question of Commitment, edited by them, provides a comprehensive analysis of children’s rights in Canada. The second edition was published in 2019. They are useful reference books on children’s rights in Canada. Dr. Katherine Covell, former Executive Director of the Children’s Rights Center at Cape Breton University, was an active member on the board of the Coalition for many years, creating child-friendly resources and leading research on how to incorporate children’s rights into education systems. She also served as a consultant for the UN Secretary General’s Study on Violence Against Children.
In this essay, Drs. Covell and Howe provide their critical assessment of progress in Canada. “But overall the gap between the promise of the CRC and its implementation means that many children in Canada continue to be raised in toxic environments.” The essay ends with three key changes they hope to see in Canada in the future.
Dr. Cindy Blackstock: “Spirit Bear and Children Make Children’s Rights Happen”
Dr. Cindy Blackstock is Executive Director of the First Nations Family and Caring Society and a leading advocate for the rights of First Nations children in Canada. After serving on the board of the Coalition, Cindy went on to pursue the rights of First Nations children through a complaint to the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal which resulted in a ruling that the Government of Canada discriminates against First Nations children in the provision of child welfare and other public services. At present, the Government of Canada is appealing a decision by the Tribunal to award compensation to each affected child.
In this essay, Dr. Blackstock describes how engaging children in legal processes to address egregious violations of children’s rights can advance knowledge and respect for the rights of children.
Ms. Sandra Griffen: “The Convention on the Rights of the Child Thirty Years Later: What Happened?”
Ms. Sandra Griffen served as Chair of the Canadian Coalition for the Rights of Children for several years and advanced children’s rights in the field of Early Childhood Education during her years as Executive Director of the Canadian Childcare Federation. Later she focused on advancing rights-based approaches to public policy for children within the Government of British Columbia.
In this essay, Sandra looks back at the high expectations in the early years, some disappointment, and hope that Canada will build on the foundations laid in many places by children’s rights advocates.
Ms Lisa Wolff: “Put Our Children’s Rights Shoes On”
Ms. Lisa Wolff, Director of Policy and Research, UNICEF Canada, is a leading Canadian expert on child well-being and children’s rights. She served on the board of the Coalition for many years and is known within the children’s rights community for her willingness to provide well-researched information on child development in Canada. Lisa has lead in the development of One Youth and the Canadian Index on Child and Youth Well-being, a useful public tool to learn about the situation of children in Canada. Lisa also brings to the children’s rights community in Canada a global perspective, including information about successful outcomes in other countries where children’s rights are implemented more fully than in Canada.
In this essay, Lisa names two major barriers and six key areas where implementing the Convention would make a big difference for children in Canada.
Ms. Cheryl Milne, LLB, MSw: “We Still Have Far to Go”
Ms. Cheryl Milne, a highly respected lawyer in the fields of children’s rights and constitutional law, has served as Chair of the Canadian Coalition for the Rights of Children, provided legal counsel on significant cases involving children’s rights, and led in the development of a toolkit to help lawyers use children’s rights in their work.
In this essay, Cheryl Milne describes progress made in the courts through the legal profession and the need for governments to take children’s rights more seriously.
Dr. Tara Collins: “The Convention is for Everyone”
Dr. Tara Collins, Associate Professor, School of Child and Youth Care, Ryerson University, draws on wide experience in academic research and community advocacy for children’s rights. Tara played an important role in the 3th/4th review of how Canada implements children’s rights and contributes to many other Coalition initiatives, as well as assisting other civil society groups in their work for children’s rights.
In this essay, Tara highlights the benefits of implementing a comprehensive understanding of children’s rights as a tool to make progress for children and address emerging challenges.